To be successful in today’s global industrial equipment and machinery market, manufacturers need to build equipment & machines that are smarter, more functional, cost-efficient, with improved designs, easy maintainability, flexibility and better energy efficiency. This is significant considering the pressure that exists in the market today to drastically reduce development and manufacturing time. The market demands maximum uptime on a day-to-day basis, while expecting that the products will remain productive for decades. Thus, the new reality for equipment & machine builders is that they need to have configurable & modular systems so as to build products that will meet diverse customer demands.
Most of the challenges can be overcome today by consistent efforts towards innovation and use of advanced technology concepts like Industry 4.0, IIoT, Big Data, etc, which in turn calls for digitalisation of all the operations. In this context, Siemens PLM Software and EM recently organised a panel discussion on ‘Leveraging Digitalisation for Building Smarter, More Functional & Easy-to-Maintain Machines & Equipment’, in Kolhapur along with KCCI (Kolhapur Chamber of Commerce & Industries) and WESMACH (Western Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce Industries, Agro & Education).
The conference was inaugurated by Lalit Gandhi, President, KCCI, who delivered the opening address, where he noted that Kolhapur is a city of business owners & entrepreneurs who have earned a name for themselves in the market with their skillful products and lauded this initiative, which is helping raise awareness on innovative products and technologies across the manufacturing industry today. The next speaker was Bababhai Vasa, Managing Director, Rocket Industries, who delivered the keynote address, where he spoke on the rapid pace of change in technologies and the importance of adopting & keeping abreast with these changes so as to compete in the current market scenario.
The conference then proceeded with the panel discussion on ‘Leveraging Digitalisation for Building Smarter, More Functional & Easy-to-Maintain Machines & Equipment’. The panelists of the discussion were Mahesh Bhirangi, Managing Director, Pragati Engineering Belgaum; Nitin Wadikar, Founder & CMD, Maharashtra Group of Industries; Prasad Soundalgekar, Technical Director, Preci FAB Engineers and Nilotpal Kumar, Industry Consultant, Siemens PLM Software. The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, EM.
Addressing challenges of manufacturers
Stating the current challenges faced by the manufacturing fraternity, Bhirangi said, “One of the challenges which I feel the industry is facing is the absence of a mother industry, which would help them with the infrastructure to take them to the next level. However, that has not deterred many industries from going up the value chain. The second challenge which our industry faces is a good skilled manpower. Although India has a demographic dividend, when it comes to having the right skillset from the manufacturing perspective, it is a challenge. The third challenge that I would like to highlight is in terms of change management. We have to be adaptable to change.” Agreeing to this, Wadikar also spoke on the challenges of skilled manpower. But he also pointed out that due to the government’s initiatives, this is being overcome, although some production challenges still exist.
Soundalgekar also stressed on the importance of having a mother industry and shared, “The mother industry is basically the incubator of adopting technology. If you have a mother industry in the vicinity, most of the things that are going to come in the future are ready to be adopted. The second challenge is that most of us are guided to adopt things based on know-how. This is a deterrent because we don’t analyse as to why we need to adopt this technology. The other challenge that we face is the effective implementation and the adaptation that has to come. This must be backed with an appropriate know-why, rather than know-how.” He further stated that the industry has to come up in such a way where they can adopt the open platforms of different software and the machinery of this should not be adopted, which is proprietary.
Supporting skill-set with technology
Speaking on the initiative taken by Siemens to overcome the challenge of skilled manpower that the manufacturing sector currently faces, Kumar averred, “Siemens had initially launched an initiative in Gujarat where, in collaboration with the educational institutions of Gujarat, Siemens had donated their machines and software and had also built a few centres of excellence. The students, who were part of technical academic backgrounds or engineering, were given an exposure into these advanced manufacturing processes so that after their education, they would have the necessary skillset expected in the industry.”
Regarding the proprietary machines, Kumar pointed out that previously manufacturers used to own manual machines, which they knew how to fix in case it stopped working. However, after investing a huge amount on the new technology, when this machine faces down-time, manufacturers do not know how to fix it, unlike the manual machines. These need to be considered and support must be provided to customers so that their trust continues to remain in the products & services. He also spoke on the cost of technology, which is often not feasible for manufacturers and is a major challenge faced by them. “We have proposed a solution for this problem as well. For example, in Bengaluru, we have a set-up, which allows shared ownership of our resources to the city’s several manufacturers. This solution can be implemented in Kolhapur as well.”
Further taking this discussion forward and emphasising on supporting the skill-set with technology, Soundalgekar explained, “We need a technology centre that supports the skill-sets so as to bring that to a different level. What we need is an open platform where the industry, as a whole, would come to get the technological support to enhance and bring their product to the international quality requirements.”
Achieving operational excellence globally
The next topic of discussion was on how to achieve operational excellence. Speaking on this, Bhirangi said, “One of the primary requirements is to have a real-time monitoring of whatever data is available. If we are talking of the shopfloor, we should be able to get real-time data, independent of the person because when it is manual, it is prone to errors. It could be gathering of data from the machines itself which would be fed into whatever system they have, that will help them monitor data in terms of productivity and efficiencies. We do have predictive maintenance in our processes, but whether the machines can speak to us and warn us of their down-time beforehand, that could help ensure operational excellence in the long-term.”
He further stated, “We must also know how to use the data, which is generated because we could have various means to create the data, but again, we need to understand how to use that data for better analysis and try to understand what the data is reflecting. The third aspect, when it comes to quality, is that the process determines the quality of the product. So, how quickly we can address to changes could be one of the factors, which could determine operational excellence”. Also, elaborating on this was Wadikar, who said that developments are necessary especially in the software domain.
Focus on quality
Focusing on quality was another aspect, which was considered important in achieving operational excellence. In this context, Soundalgekar explained, “Quality is going to be the parameter, which we have to address. It’s been addressed by different standards, different codes and requirements across the globe. If anybody wants to come up to that level, he should have access to the material as per what the standard specifies. Thus, we must device a system in which the code and standards are properly interpreted and those interpretations are then physically made available. This would take the industry in a proper direction to a level where we can present ourselves to the global market by adopting the global standards.”
Kumar also stressed on the importance of quality and spoke of a product twin, process twin and a performance twin that is offered by Siemens, which can help manufacturers to not only build a prototype of the entire process of manufacturing the final product before actually go into production but it will also help them in predictive maintenance, which can help further to achieve operational excellence.
Driving towards a smooth process
The subsequent topic of discussion focused on the ways in which a smooth process can be adopted within departments for inter-operational processes. In this context, Bhirangi said, “We should have a transparent organisation wherein data flows seamlessly across. It could start right from the stage where the customer places the order. After this, we should be able to seamlessly process the data across, not just in our organisation but it should go down to the supply chain and should even reach the logistics players. It should also go right up to the customer end so that he knows the product will arrive. Hence, it should be a transparent seamless flow of data across.” He also pointed out the importance of collaboration on a global level and having open levels of communication, even an open architecture, wherein data does not get changed and moves seamlessly, while retaining its accuracy.
Soundalgekar also stressed on the importance of data and stated, “The data gathered, if properly implemented and processed to get the result out of that will help you reach the correct analysis. This analysed data, when converted into application for the next system development stage, can reap huge benefits and will help you overcome difficulties and address requirements in a proper way.” Kumar also agreed to this and further emphasised on the need for collaboration today.
Steps for digitalisation transformation process
The final topic of discussion revolved around the immediate steps that manufacturers can take so as to bring about a digital transformation within their organisation and its processes. In response to this, Kumar averred, “Every company has to introspect where they are currently and where they would like to be in the future and which are the paths that will lead them towards that. There will be some obstacles on the way such as not having enough after-sales support for the automation machines. This needs to be taken into account and an action plan must be worked out accordingly so as to overcome this issue. Thus, every company must figure out what is the next thing that they will do and this would be different for each company. Digitalisation as a technology has the potential to transform your business but each company will have its unique path in adopting it.”
Agreeing to Kumar’s approach, Soundalgekar further stated, “Each company has to determine its requirements and must chart out what needs to be digitised in the first stage, in the second stage and where it will lead. So, one has to define a path. If your approach is modular and stage-wise, you will develop it and eventually reach that level of adaptation after having some practice and manipulating your own processes.” Wadikar also stressed on the importance of adopting good technology and software. Adding a new perspective to this, Bhirangi shared, “The first step is to try and see where digitalisation has been implemented and what gains they are benefitting out of it and then chart out a roadmap for our own self, which will help adopt it in our organisation.”
Advanced machine engineering for industrial machinery
Discussing further on leveraging digitalisation to build smarter, faster and cost-effective machines, Nilotpal Kumar presented the session on a framework which helps to incorporate digitalisation practices in machine building. He also touched upon the importance of digitalisation in meeting industry challenges and spoke on the solutions from Siemens, which can help manufacturers in adopting a digital platform. This can help them in enhancing their production process and bring about better quality of products while achieving higher efficiency.
Jitkar summarised the discussion by stating that digitalisation is going to come and manufacturers need to be in the flow and need to have it adopted in their organisation. They also need to prepare their support system so as to optimise the proper use of digital transformation. One also needs to ensure that each and every person in the organisation is equally informed either through verbal communication or have a proper system, which will update everyone and they must also involve suppliers and customers in that process. Handling customisation effectively and understanding the customer requirements will also be key. Manufacturers need to strive to reach that stage of operational excellence so that they will be accepted in the global market.